A Universe of One

When I was a child, my mother would frequently scold me with the cliched parental phrase, “the world doesn’t revolve around you!” whenever I happened to be acting in a way she didn’t like.

My response, even from a fairly young age, while I was still in early elementary school, was to argue that the world did in fact revolve around me. From my perspective, everything did. I argued that because I see the world through my own eyes, that I can only understand things as revolving around my own perspective. I didn’t realize it at the time but I was actually making a fairly advanced argument for solipsism as a clever way to justify whatever behavior my parents didn’t like. Usually something involving not doing chores, I think.

Needless to say, my parents were not amused by this. That argument I made many years ago has stuck with me, however, and it wasn’t until I attended college and studied philosophy that I learned about solipsism, the idea that my own self and perception is all that I can know to truly exist. From a young age, I was questioning assumptions about how people view reality and the way the universe, and existence operate. This type of thinking is what in large part led me to eventually reject the evangelical christian worldview that I was raised in. What I was taught did not line up or agree with what I had seen with my own eyes. I realized I had to learn the truth for myself, through my own efforts, rather than simply have someone tell it to me.

I think that on some level all people experience this feeling that the world revolves around them. We all see things through our own eyes and mental framework. Because we can’t read minds or think with someone else’s brain, it can be truly difficult to understand another person, to know what they are thinking or feeling. The desire to feel connected to others, to have meaningful relationships is by nature paradoxical. As I draw closer to someone, I realize how far apart we really are. The alienation I’ve felt at times at a large party or at a concert or in a public space, surrounded by people, but feeling alone is not unique. But I don’t know this for sure. Maybe it is. Maybe I’m really the only one here, and this world is a cosmic prison created by an evil god to fulfill some sort of mad divine plan. Perhaps I’m experiencing a complete computer simulation carried out on the ship of an alien race. Maybe that’s why I feel so disconnected. Because there is a greater reality that I should be a part of that I’m missing out on.

The problem with all of that is that this universe, this existence feels real. Imagining alternatives is useless fantasy on some level because there is no apparent way out other than death. There appear to be very real world consequences for various actions. There appear to be things like cause and effect and laws of physics. There are social rules and consequences as well. I’m not alone in fearing awkward social situations or the dreaded public speaking engagement. One thing I’ve learned, however, is that while reality itself might not change, my perception of it certainly does. I’ve learned this by living on the brink of a total psychotic breakdown, and by trying various drugs, all of which has altered my perception of reality greatly. Experiencing euphoria, experiencing paranoia, experiencing psychosis and hallucinations make me question all over again the true nature of reality. If what I can see with my mind and my eyes changes so easily, what is really out there? What is consciousness? What does it mean to exist?

I’d like to explore these themes in depth on this blog. I’m attempting to return to my earlier practice of writing a blog post every day, but I’ve been in a creative funk for the last 8 years really. Life beat me down and my desire to write and be creative, while still there, was impossible to access in any productive way. I’m trying to repair my brain and rebuild my relationships, with others and with myself. Writing here is part of that process. Expect more to come.

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